International High School exhibit on the immigrant worker at the Queens Museum of Art from Jan. 7-23

December 21, 2005 | LaGuardia Community College

Long Island City, NY — An exhibit of International High School students’ essays and photographs chronicling the experiences of New York City’s immigrant workers will be on display at the Queens Museum of Art from January 7 through the 23rd.

On view is a collection of photos and essays that came out of a three-month research project where 60 students, all of whom are recent arrivals to this country, interviewed and photographed relatives and friends who described the challenges and successes they experienced as day laborers, domestics, fledgling small business owners, and fast-food employees.

Among those interviewed was an asbestos worker from the Czech Republic who worried about “breathing my own death”; a Colombian woman who cleaned dental offices and dreamed of the day her teenage daughter would be a dentist; a Bangladeshi street hawker; an Afghani taxi driver; and a Chinese manicurist.

“Everyone has a story to tell, in terms of the experiences they encountered in the workplace-unsafe working conditions, low wages, and employee rights issues,” said Noreen Perlmutter, a teacher who oversaw the project, “Through this exercise, these stories are told through the ears and eyes of youth who are themselves newcomers.”

At the January 7th opening, the student authors will be present from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. to discuss their work. The museum is located at Flushing Meadows, Corona Park. The collection will also include works of students from Brooklyn and Manhattan International High Schools, both off-springs of the Queens high school. For more information, call Ms. Perlmutter at (718) 482- 5471.

The students’ compilation can also be seen in a published book Forty-Cent Tip: Stories of New York City Immigrant Workers. The book is being sold in the museum and local bookstores.

International High School at LaGuardia Community College was among 18 high schools nationwide whose “action” research projects were supported by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and What Kids Can Do, a not-for-profit organization that supports student research projects.

“Our goal is to promote ‘powerful learning with public purpose’ in high schools nationwide,” said Barbara Cervone, president of What Kids Can Do. “And to support the work of students and teachers who are engaged in projects that attempt to solve important school and community ideas.”

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